BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Hervé Renard walked away from the narrowest of Women’s World Cup quarterfinal exits and immediately started plotting France’s next opportunity to avenge a loss to Australia.
Co-host Australia held fifth-ranked France 0-0 in regulation and extra time and then won 7-6 in a penalty shootout on Saturday in Brisbane. The Australians advanced to the semifinals for the first time and will next face European champion England.
Renard’s French lineup will go home, their attention already turned to the Olympics starting next July 26 in Paris.
“Now we have to look forward,” Renard said. “We’re organizing the Olympic Games in Paris. So, we’re awaiting for you. We’ll have our revenge!”
The French will definitely be there as hosts, but Australia hasn’t completed Asian qualifying. Still, the sentiment is all the same.
In March, Renard replaced Corinne Diacre as head coach of a French women’s team that was in turmoil. Captain Wendie Renard was considering skipping the World Cup and a host of senior players seemingly weren’t in the frame for selection.
He rebuilt the squad, recalling the likes of leading scorer Eugenie Le Sommer, topped Group F with wins over Braziland Panama, and then trounced Morocco 4-0 in the round of 16.
With those victories, the well-traveled Renard became the first head coach to win games at both the women’s and men’s World Cups. His upset victory with Saudi Arabia over eventual champion Argentina was one of the highlights of the men’s World Cup in Qatar last year.
Against Australia, though, he said it was like taking on an entire nation. The Australians are co-hosting the tournament with New Zealand, and the government, the football federation and the public are deeply invested in the success of the Matildas. It was the third straight loss for France in a Women’s World Cup quarterfinal, including in 2019 as host.
The French had chances in both halves of regulation time, and in extra time — when the Australians appeared to concede an own-goal only for the referee to disallow it.
Australian goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold repelled every French effort on goal and then made three clutch saves in the shootout.
Renard sent on shootout specialist Solene Durand deep in extra time to replace France’s starting goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin. She made three saves, which would normally be enough to win it. But, as Renard said, it’s a game of less than inches.
“We knew the qualities of Durand. She’s amazing on the penalty shootout,” Renard said. “If we’d won, I was the king of the world. But this evening I’m nothing because we lost for some millimeters.
“This evening it was 50-50, but destiny chose Australia. It was a fantastic image of women’s football.”
Organizers have sold more than 1.7 million tickets, a Women’s World Cup record, and there’s been sellout crowds for the big games — including two exceeding 75,000 for Australia’s games at Sydney’s Stadium Australia.
The expanded 32-team tournament has added an extra element of excitement, and obviously more games.
Australia is the only non-European team left in the tournament now that it’s down to four, with its next game against its oldest sporting rival for a spot in the final against either Sweden or Spain.
Renard wouldn’t mind seeing the Aussies win it, if just for helping to put on such a vibrant tournament.
“I’m wishing you all the best,” he said. “I would like to repeat one more time: This competition was fantastic for us. Beautiful cities, beautiful stadiums, the atmosphere was fantastic.
“It’s a shame for us to go home. But, all the best to you now — I’m sure you can win this World Cup.”
AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/fifa-womens-world-cup